It certainly goes without saying, these are challenging times for small business and entrepreneurs across Australia particularly when it comes to grant funding.
More and more business owners and entrepreneurs are swinging into survival mode, as the onslaught of COVID-19 and continually evolving lockdown situations place increasing pressure on businesses to find and implement funding solutions that will keep their operations afloat and profitable.
In today’s landscape then, you certainly wouldn’t be alone if you’ve already begun to dig for grant funding opportunities as a means of survival, instead of as a strategic enabler of your business growth.
Incidentally, the total pool of grant funding available in Australia has increased by 53% to well over $150 billion as a result of COVID-19 response grants, leading many businesses to invest an immeasurable and profound amount of hope into grants as a lifeboat.
Yet in doing so, many of these businesses are now facing a bureaucratic system characterised by a minefield of application guidelines with unfamiliar terminology, smart-forms, and automated communications with no sign of a real person on the other end of the line.
Lack of clarity
In the maze of diverse funding objectives, requirements and parameters, the true criteria and expectations of funding bodies are often rendered oblique.
Before even setting pen to paper, grant seekers often find themselves struggling to understand exactly what will make or break their funding successes.
These difficulties are often inadvertently highlighted in applications where mismatches between grant seeker expectations and the grant’s funding objectives are all too often apparent. In the context of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of submissions, these applications are then fast tracked to the decline pile — the very last place any grant seeker wants to find themselves in after investing their valuable resources into preparing these applications.
In contrast, the outcome might have been very different had these grant seekers been armed with increased clarity and provided with opportunities to curate some grant seeking experience.
Australian research shows that more than half of successful grant seekers have been in the grant seeking game for more than five years. On the flip side, struggling grant seekers have been pursuing grant funding for less than three years. And with a large portion of the $150 billion in grant funding out there being traditionally targeted at charitable organisations, the small range of grants available to businesses at very specific stages of growth means it is not surprising that many Australian business owners possess limited experience in applying for grants.
The human element
So how can business owners effectively compete for, and win, the slices of grant funding that will make all the difference to their vision?
The fact funding bodies are now catering for businesses more so than ever before will certainly allow businesses to begin building out their grant seeking experience; however, there is still ample opportunity for these grant makers to even the playing field out even more by creating humanised grant processes.
When we say humanised, we’re talking about grantmakers recognising that there are real people behind every application — and treating them as humans with ambitions, goals, and visions, rather than as numbers.
We’re talking about moving away from automated processes, towards increasingly proactive relationship and engagement building processes that allow grant makers and grant seekers to see and understand each other.
We’re talking about increased transparency and information sharing between grant makers and grant applicants at every step of the grants process, towards achieving mutual understanding and rapport.
We’re talking about actively empowering humanity to shine through bureaucracy and smart-forms.
Three steps to take today
Without question, it is time for change in favour of businesses seeking grant funding.
In the meantime, there are a number of crucial action steps you can take to improve the success of your grant seeking endeavours for your business:
1. Get to know yourself, your business, and how you fit within the funding landscape
By doing this you’ll discover increased clarity and improved capacity to articulate both your vision and your funding needs. This will help you strategically select appropriate grant opportunities, and to craft applications that have a strong impact on the decision makers.
2. Assess your eligibility and alignment with the funding’s objectives and priorities
While many of you will quite naturally feel your business has a unique proposal that is more than deserving of funding, our advice is to exercise brutal honesty with yourself about whether your proposal strongly aligns with what those offering the funding are looking for.
If not, it is perfectly fine (in fact advisable) to strategically move on, remembering that there will be future opportunities that are far more deserving of your valuable time and hope.
Position yourself as a capable business with capacity and experience
Because after all, grant makers are not charitable organisations that exist to enable and power your continued survival. In fact, funding bodies are more akin to investors seeking feasible and realistic investment opportunities that will contribute positively to social and economic outcomes.
By implementing these three tactics, you’ll be able to put your most competitive foot forward for the slices of funding that will both enable and elevate your entrepreneurial visions — and in these challenging times, there could be nothing better!